I’m worried about the state of birth in our society. Fewer doctors know what drug-free childbirth looks like. Vaginal births are on the decline in too many places. More moms think their care providers are going to educate them about childbirth during the already too-short appointments dedicated to checking on mom’s and baby’s prenatal health. And it feels a lot like we’re conceding birth as a medical event, rather than protecting it as the wholly natural and empowering experience it can be.
Let’s be clear: I don’t believe the only “good” birth is a natural birth. I don’t think OBs are the “bad guys” (and gals). I personally find the evidence supporting natural birth compelling, and I personally prefer midwifery care for healthy women having normal pregnancies. But above all, I am deeply passionate about women choosing a birth path that sets them up for a rewarding experience, and that’s what I teach in my prenatal yoga classes.
Making the choice for an empowered birth requires a little legwork on our part, ladies.
Learning about the physiology of birth, learning how to get a baby out of your body, and having a truly meaningful conversation with your care provider about how they manage labor—those make for an excellent foundation for an empowered birth. And what I hear from women in my prenatal yoga classes is that even these three basics aren’t a foundational part of many women’s birth experiences.
Whether you’re committed to your epidural or dedicated to natural birth, you have to take to heart that birth sometimes makes its own plans! An epidural might not take. A naturally laboring mama might find herself exhausted. Then what?!
For starters, how about a Pregnancy Plan, long before we get caught up in making a Birth Plan? With that in mind, if I were preparing for my first birth now, I would follow a Pregnancy Plan that looks something like this:
- Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
- Encourage your partner to read Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner
- Hire a midwife as care provider
- Practice prenatal yoga
- Have several prenatal massages, and Maya Abdominal Massage if it’s available
- Hire a doula
- Walk daily
- Swim often
- Attend an independent childbirth education class with my partner (I love Birthing from Within)
- Read happy birth stories, like those in Belly Button Bliss (full disclosure: that’s my book! )
- Honor the special occasion of birth with a blessingway and henna belly art.
- Get the book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting and read little snippets here and there
- Attend a breastfeeding class
- Attend a La Leche League meeting to see breastfeeding in action
- Attend a babycare and parenting class
- Learn about proper babywearing and safe co-sleeping, so you can decide whether those are options for your family to explore
- Go on lots of dates! Girlfriend dates. Spouse dates. Me dates. This kind of self-care will be harder to come by once baby is in-arms, instead of en utero!
- Choose to prepare for a home birth or visit local hospitals and learn about their Cesarean rates, support of Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), and ask whether there were labor and delivery nurses present who support natural birth. (since I’m in Nashville, I’d probably just head to The Farm to have the baby!)
- Freeze more meals in advance
- Get a couple of the Positive Discipline books to have at the ready. Baby will be toddling and asserting her will before you know it!
- Make plans to encapsulate the placenta
- Check into postnatal mama-baby support and activities
- Arrange for as long a postpartum babymoon as possible (i.e. staying home, often in bed, with plenty of family, friend, household chore and postpartum doula support)
- Meditate daily, even just 5 minutes!
- Journal the experience so my daughters could someday share my journey from womanhood to motherhood.
Dear mama-to-be, I invite you to claim your pregnancy and your birth as a special occasion! Give it some extra attention. Put at least as much thought into preparing your body, mind, and spirit for birth as you put into filling out your baby registry! Write yourself a Pregnancy Plan that feels like a love letter—to you and your baby.
Experienced moms, what else would you add to a Pregnancy Plan, if you had it to do all over again?